If it isn’t a Big Tobacco bailout, then why did the Big Tobacco companies spend more than $3 million in just 20 days lobbying Congress to approve H.R.4134? I know, sometimes the obvious is right in front of our noses, but we just can’t see it. Maybe people haven’t yet grasped the sellout occurring here because they want to believe “innocent until proven guilty.” I get it. Some people don’t want to believe that some folks in Congress really are “bought off” by special interests. It’s like that guy who said, “I can’t see the forest through these darn trees.”
Good morning and welcome to the Wednesday edition of TaxTracker! We’re revved up and ready for another busy mid-week crush toward legislative armageddon, brought to you by the U.S. House and Senate. Today, let’s look at how neatly things line up between Big Tobacco and H.R. 4134 (and the similar provision already stuffed in the Senate’s highway bill).
U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) introduced H.R. 4134 on March 5, 2012. Her bill “reclassifies” small retail tobacco shops where you can roll your own smokes as tobacco product “manufacturers” and subject to a whole heap of new taxes regulations. The Congressional Budget Office looked at the whole “roll your own” smokes issue and concluded if these retail shops are reclassified as “manufacturers,” they’ll be forced to shut down because they won’t be able to bear the new costs. Rep. Black’s H.R.4134 was such an immediate hit, there were no fewer than 60 lobbyists dispatched to Congress to lobby for its passage. Check it for yourself, it’s in the lobbyist disclosure database. In just 20 days between March 5 and March 31, the Big Tobacco companies ALL disclosed they spent millions urging Congress to act.
Question: What’s a cosponsor?
Answer: After a bill is introduced in Congress, the author typically wants to show leadership there’s enough support to pass the bill in the House or Senate, so he or she gathers “co-sponsors.” These cosponsors are people who agree enough with the bill to sign their name on to it for all the public to see. Signing on as a cosponsor is easy; you just tell the bill’s author, “put me on!” But, getting off a bill is difficult and exposes ALL SORTS of problems. To remove your name from cosponsoring a bill, you have to go the the House chamber and publicly ask the Speaker controlling debate to remove your name from a bill. Imagine all the questions a reporter wants to ask a member of Congress who changes their mind about something like that!
Question: Who’s a cosponsor of H.R.4134?
Answer: On H.R.4134, there are a lot of cosponsors. Last time I checked, it was about 74. Who are they? Well, let’s take a look.
The first cosponsor was U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-New York). I took a look at his Federal Elections Commission disclosures and imagine my surprise to find out he’s taken in excess of $30,000 in campaign contributions from the Big Tobacco companies!
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers (R-North Carolina) joined H.R.4134 on March 8, 2012. Looking at her Federal Elections Commissions reports, she’s taken more than $22,000 from the Big Tobacco companies in the form of campaign contributions. By the way, the first dollar of that >$22,000 rolled into her account WAY BACK in the year 2010.
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-New York): More than $54,000 in recent years taken in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco companies.
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania): He’s a freshman who just got into office. >$5,000 from Big Tobacco (plus some other groups pushing for HR4134).
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma): This former top official at the Republican National Committee has more than $20,000 in Big Tobacco campaign cash.
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas): >$15,000 from Big Tobacco
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma): >$30,000 from Big Tobacco
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania): >$55,000 from Big Tobacco and the convenience stores PAC that supports HR4134.
Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee): >$24,000 from ONE Big Tobacco company alone!!
And let’s not forget the original “author” of the Big Tobacco bailout bill, U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-Tennessee).
TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ The #jobs agenda does NOT include a #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill! http://bit.ly/NewTax
Comparing the cosponsor sheet for H.R.4134 to who has given to each member’s campaign coffers could go on for DAYS, and maybe it will. I am not contending that just because Big Tobacco and other self-interested groups gave HUGE sums of cash to each individual above that they received any special treatment; I mean, WHY would any office immediately grant a meeting with tobacco company lobbyists to discuss a bill that was barely a few days old, hadn’t had a hearing, smelled like a Big Tobacco bailout, and had nothing to do with job creation or saving small puppies and kittens?
OUR MISSION: Spread the word! The Big Tobacco bailout is alive and it won’t be dead until it is. Like those pouty vampires from that Twilight series that won’t go away, the Big Tobacco companies are swarming Capitol Hill, telling members of Congress they HAVE to do this. Well, we’re the people. WE the people of these United States demand Congress protect free enterprise and REJECT any attempts to use the Federal government to unfairly heap taxes and regulations on small businesses. Let’s STAY LOUD on the Twitter-verse, in the Facebook, on that sign-in sheet at the town hall meeting, phone, telepathy, and stick marks in the sand. Go be heard! See you online.